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Rebecca Salsbury, deputy director of platform, BBC

Rebecca Salsbury

Career path

My career began by “falling into IT”, having gained degrees in education with specialisms in mathematics and computing from the University of Maine, I only ever taught adults and teachers (about personal and classroom computing). My early roles combined my love of developing (and teaching) people of all ages with an interest in and curiosity about the role that technology can have in learning and getting on in the world.

 

I began my career in media and consumer electronics companies, in roles which blended technology and customer service; most often bringing new innovative products to market or using technology to transform business processes and customer experience. I then led the programme delivery of the short-lived “Project Kangaroo” (later SeeSaw); an early attempt to aggregate public service catch-up TV.

 

I joined the BBC over ten years ago and have held several senior roles in technology division, leading product and engineering teams. In my current role, I am responsible for personalising the BBC’s digital products, driving up signed-in customer acquisition and championing the use of customer data for enhancing products and making business decisions.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

I most enjoy supporting and developing people through their personal and professional objectives. My proudest achievement in recent years is having launched a mentoring scheme for women in STEM roles at the BBC; it’s a small scheme, supported by volunteers and mentors from all walks, all roles and disciplines (and any gender). What we have in common is a commitment to growing gender diversity in our industry through supporting and increasing retention of women in typically male-dominated professions. It’s early days, so hard to say whether it’s having a systemic impact, but the anecdotes from individual women (and their mentors) are encouraging and inspiring.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

My mother is a huge inspiration, although we’ve made different life choices. In the 1990s she fought to join a local fire department when women were not permitted: she trained, wore the gear, drove fire trucks. She’s shown resilience in the face of opposition, and taught me to be generous to others, even as I pursue my own goals.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

2020 is bound to be tough for all of us – balancing the needs of our businesses with the needs of our customers, while adapting to new and evolving regulation and legislation governing our use of data. There isn’t a “new normal” yet – which we know from customer perceptions and popular media characterisations – so we’ve still got a big job to do. We’ve got to spend the next couple of years demonstrating that data can be a force for good, and, used responsibly, for the benefit of our customers. What’s tough is sure to be rewarding; I relish the challenge and look forward to being able to reflect on success in a year’s time.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

There is a huge opportunity to demonstrate to the public, and to our customers, that it’s possible to responsibly use data for the benefit of those customers as individuals and members of society. We have a chance to educate the public about data and technology and demonstrate its appropriate use. In doing so, we’ll build trust in our own brands and the industry, which fuels innovation and shapes policy and regulation. It’s exciting to be part of and to benefit from.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge you face in ensuring data is at the heart of your digital transformation strategy?

Data is always at the heart of a digital transformation, just as it is at the heart of any business. For me, the data challenge is in two parts: managing the evolution of our data and data models as our business needs and those of our customers change, and in governing that data across a large, diversified business. Apart from that, the usual: how do we simplify the tech and systems around the data, and how might we provide tools which allow more business users access to the data and insights it can bring.

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